Notes From Underground

For two years, Beni B and Oakland's ABB Records have taken on the hip-hop establishment one vinyl single at a time

"A lot of people say we have an East Coast sound," says Evidence. "I don't think that's true, but I would say our style is more conventional."

Some artists feel that ABB's more straight-ahead sound is a large part of the reason for its success, regardless of airplay. "Commercial radio stations are just looking for one type of sound," says the Grouch, rapper in Oakland's Livin' Legends crew. "The ABB sound is more East Coast, more likely to be played on The Wake-Up Show [a syndicated radio show, broadcast on KMEL-FM (106.1) in the Bay Area]." The Wake-Up Show broadcasts live in the Bay Area once a month, but is usually pre-recorded in L.A. a week before it airs. KMEL music director Glen Aure notes that ABB artists have had their records played there, "but sometimes it's kind of hard to play most of the stuff because of the style. [ABB] is more for the real hip-hop fan, who's into it more deeply, and amongst the culture. We play more of the mass-appeal hits, stuff that MTV will play."

Beni B understands, though he feels the time is ripe for a hip-hop mix show on Bay Area commercial radio. Still, he's a firm believer that the truth outs. "It comes down to the people," he says. "If the people are calling up and requesting records, they can't deny it." College radio, meanwhile, has reacted enthusiastically. "The tension is definitely building," says Evidence. "Sooner or later [commercial radio] is going to have no choice but to deal with it because it's going to be right in their face.

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